Mariam Bint Mohammad Saeed Hareb Al Muhairi, UAE Minister of State
There are many ways to harness the UAE's ground and climatic realities and still develop an agricultural base. And more new ways will be found too... Image Credit: Supplied

Humanity is facing a series of urgent and interconnected challenges across its food, water, and energy systems. Our current food systems account for approximately one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions – the main drivers of climate change.

Meanwhile, the impact of climate change, including increasing temperatures and changing precipitation patterns, have an adverse effect on crop yields. This creates a vicious circle that we need to break if we want to provide sufficient food supply for current and future generations.

In the UAE, we have a long history of adapting to changes in food security due to our desert climate, limited fresh water, and the fact that only 1 per cent of our land is arable. We currently import nearly 90 per cent of all food products to feed a population that has more than tripled over the past 20 years and approaching the 10-million mark.

In my role as Minister of Climate Change and Environment, I am committed to strengthening the country’s food security in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and our National Food Security Strategy 2051. From my perspective, our harsh arid climate presents us with a unique opportunity to actively contribute to solving the challenges humanity faces.

Work within eco-systems

Climate change will only exacerbate the range and intensity of food production issues. We are thinking ahead to prepare for the future, using our ecosystem as a testing ground to identify the fertile ideas that can grow and adapt effectively.

Our focus on innovation is important, as our climatic experience is far from unique. In fact, drylands account for 46.2 per cent of the global land area. Traditionally, research has been directed at crop optimization and creating ideal environments for cultivation.

However, as desertification is on the rise - destabilizing the lives of 3.2 billion people according to the UN Secretary-General - countries like the UAE have a responsibility to incubate promising new ideas. It is our goal to become a global hub for innovation-driven food security and to help catalyze the much-needed systemic change by exporting the sustainable agricultural solutions that prove successful.

Rise to the agri challenge

That is why we are launching the second edition of the FoodTech Challenge here in the UAE. Our aim is simple: We want to activate and support the best and brightest scientists, innovators, and entrepreneurs who are developing out-of-the-box ideas that can improve lives and livelihoods and, ultimately, change global food systems to more sustainable ones.

The challenges we are trying to tackle will be insurmountable without a cross-border, cross-societal response. To be successful, we must harness the power of global collaboration to find new solutions that can ensure the resilience and longevity of our food systems.

To create meaningful change, we need to identify and invest in the next wave of technology innovations that have the potential to transform agricultural systems as we currently know them. The FoodTech Challenge provides an ecosystem that can nurture the breakthrough solutions we seek and accelerate their adoption.

I know that the stakes are high, and the task is daunting. But, as society’s needs escalate, innovation and human ingenuity will move at pace. I am confident that we, as individuals and communities, can mobilize our resources, voices, and passion to address this common cause.

I invite you to join our challenge, share your winning ideas, and collaborate with us to build a food-secure world.